Toyota Using VR To Train Robots To Assist The Elderly

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Practice makes perfect for this army of house-cleaning robots. 

Earlier this week Japanese-based Toyota Research Insitute released details regarding a new project currently in development that will have researchers teaching robots how to complete various types of housework using VR technology. 

Using a series of 3D sensors and cameras attached to the robots, researchers in a VR headset can view the world from the robot’s perspective and control its actions using standard motion controllers. As the researcher completes various tasks with its mechanical arms, such as opening and closing cabinets or putting away the dishes, they can leave the robot specific notes or instructions on how to complete the task in different ways. The robot then records and analyzes this information, building upon each new method and instruction that is added. 

Once a researcher has provided a sufficient amount of data to a “robot-in-training,” Toyota then uses that accumulated knowledge to educate other robots using a technique referred to as “fleet learning.” Think of it sort of like a hive mind; whatever knowledge one robot obtains is shared with the rest of the fleet. 

“Operating and navigating in home environments is very challenging for robots,” states the Institute in an official press release. “Every home is unique, with a different combination of objects in distinct configurations that change over time.”

Toyota Using VR To Train Robots To Assist The Elderly 1
Image Credit: Toyota Research Institute

“To address the diversity a robot faces in a home environment, we teach the robot to perform arbitrary tasks with a variety of objects, rather than program the robot to perform specific predefined tasks with specific objects. In this way, the robot learns to link what it sees with the actions it is taught. When the robot sees a specific object or scenario again, even if the scene has changed slightly, it knows what actions it can take with respect to what it sees.”

The end goal of the project, according to TRI, would be to develop a system that could support those in need of at-home assistance, such as the elderly, by conducting maintenance, cleaning, and performing a variety of other basic activities.

Feature Image Credit: Toyota Research Institute





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